Deathlist is the brainchild of Portland by way of New York multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and singer Jenny Logan. While currently in four bands, the individual behind Deathlist released FUN, a full length record last year, an EP Try (also last year), a record released today, February 8th, entitled A Canyon and is 50% through the recording of another record. Music is a dedicated aspect to Logan, and she has become her own prowess in her art.
Today, A Canyon is being released to the world, and we are proud to be part of the release party. Opening with the ever reflective glow on “I Want To,” Logan continues to be a pensive lyricist with an ear for orchestrating smooth, somber melodies. In an immediate dichotomy, Logan adds layers of distorted fuzz to the title track, showcasing her natural songwriting ability. She can become an amorphous ebb and flow of different emotional pulses. At times, an erratic rhythmic diva (“8 Eyes”) or a quiet timbre (“Dream Legs”) without losing the raw grace of her mood. A Canyon is a record that moves with a variety of sounds, scrambling through synths and breathing through clean atmospheres. “Selfish” ends the record on a commanding demand from the songwriter. Logan’s superhuman ability to hone in on creating tangible, gripping pieces extends into the incredible work she does outside of just record creating. Take a listen to the record below, and read a conversation between myself (Sean Gonzalez) and Logan that took place via Google Chat.
Jenny Logan: You said you’re doing homework right? Are you in school for something?
Sean Gonzalez: Yea! besides doing some New Noise items at my desktop, I am a graduate student going for my master’s in curriculum, instruction and design! I have homework and lesson plans to create, as I am planning to be a teacher!
JL: oh shit! I was a high school teacher when I lived in new york. It’s the best job I’ve ever had
SG: What did you teach? I am teaching two sections of Music History in America from 1950 on this semester!
JL: whoa cool. I taught English and Math mostly. I did an afterschool music club too that was total chaos but really fun
SG: Okay honest question, what haven’t you done? You seem to me a master of all trades.
JL: I’ve never been on a waterslide.
SG: You have helped create a public radio, released multiple albums, taught high school but your biggest challenge is a waterslide?
JL: It’s a thing I’ve never done. And at this point in life I might be too afraid to if the opportunity arose.
SG: It’s interesting. I would think more people would be afraid of being as personal and open as you are across your records. Does that ever rise any fear in you?
JL: Hm a little yeah, I always wonder if people are going to look at me differently or something. But so far nothing’s changed. I wonder what people think of me sometimes. But for the most part people seem appreciative that I’m willing to talk about difficult things. Someone wrote me a letter and gave it to me at a show last summer that really touched me.
It basically said “thank you for feeling the same thing I’m feeling, it’s comforting”. And it was like the best thing that ever happened to me. Where is that guy now I don’t know, but that really shook me, I always think playing in a band is such a self-indulgent thing , but then you remember we’re all struggling in basically the same ways and we need to hear that from each other.
SG: I remember hearing “Live For You” and feeling out of my own body. It’s tough to know how we suffer for others and others suffer for us without ever being able to express it. What gripped me in that song was your approach felt extremely timid, like you couldn’t find the right words. And I don’t think we ever can, if that makes sense.
JL: For sure. I still can’t find the right words for that
SG: When it comes to the scene though, you’ve found the words for a lot of spaces. You created your own public radio. How in the world does that happen?
JL: Oh man it’s been a long process. It started back in 2013 maybe? An old bandmate of mine from California contacted me because he’d acquired a low-power radio license. and he wanted someone in Portland to help him set up a nonprofit so he could come and run a station ( he was still in CA). I still have the messenger thread where he asked me to do it. It’s hilarious now because he says “won’t take much time, just gotta file some papers” and I was like OK sure! Fast forward 5 years later and it’s eaten up so much of my time and energy. Totally worth it of course! what happened was the friend was supposed to come up and run the station but he got sick and moved in with his dad, so here was me and like 3 other people with very little experience trying to start a radio station from scratch.
I’ve learned a lot about community media and radio in the process. I use to do a radio show with my older brother when I was 14 at the local college station, but at the time never really appreciated how huge it was to have that resource growing up. It’s where i discovered so many things about music.
Incidentally, my older brother just moved to Portland and we’re talking about doing a show together again. We used to just play tape recorded samples and random noise. the show was 3-6 a.m., so nobody was listening except cab drivers and tweekers and weirdos.
SG: What do you discuss on your show now? And do you personally ever have time for sleep?
JL: I don’t have a show right now. I was hosting one after the 2016 election where we just talked about activism and legal work and staying sane. And yes, I sleep a lot. 🙂
SG: You’ve played in what, 4 bands now?
JL: I’m in 4 bands currently
SG: Miracle worker! That’s incredible.
JL: I’ve played in so many bands. I’ve wondered what it is I’m after with all this and I think I just love collaborating. But if it gets to the point where it’s just about like “building a brand” more than making art, then I’m out.
SG: With that in mind, what is the mindset of Deathlist as you walk towards the release of A Canyon ?
JL: I’m excited for it to be out in the world but I’m also excited because I’m like 50% done with a new record! I think I’m going to look back on Deathlist and say “that was me working instead of curling up in ball and dying.”
Because however dark the records are, being in the studio making records is like the happiest time in my life.
SG: They are wonderfully dark. Where does the inspiration for the different atmospheres come from? There are radical synth sounds all over that evoke that 90s Portishead vibe.
JL: Yeah I think my favorite synth sound of all time was the solo that breaks in halfway through “Charm School” on my last record. I mean, I don’t usually have a specific instrument in mind for a song. I’ll write a demo in my bedroom on an acoustic guitar, and then come into the studio like “how best can I realize this song”? And usually it takes some trial and error to find the right tone. The song will just sort of take shape as I record it. So sometimes the inspiration just comes from the instruments I’m messing around on in the studio. Victor (my engineer) usually calls up his synth nerd friend when I’m coming in and he drops off a bunch of gear for us to play with —and then I just stand around turning knobs and getting jacked on coffee for a while.
My new years resolution though is to buy my own synth. I still don’t have my own and I think it could help me out
SG: What have you found about writing A Canyon that is different from FUN?
JL” I took more time writing the songs. FUN felt like it came out in a big rush, my friend has just passed away and I needed to give voice to what I was feeling and it took shape very quickly and was very much driven by lyrics / vocals. With A Canyon, I wasn’t sure I was even writing a record, I was just getting back into what I really liked about playing guitar – weird time signatures, disjoined parts, harmonies, chromatic scales. So I was taking time working on these instrumental parts and the record sort of took shape around that.
I think of FUN as a concept record, and I think A Canyon is too, but I think the concept is best expressed through the instruments here, if that makes sense.
SG: Absolutely! Was there anything else particular going into the inspiration? Any art or some other medium to help drive the process?
JL: Well I had just moved into a nice house after moving around for years and years and living in apartments, so I suddenly had all this space to practice without feeling like I was surrounded by people . And I think I was also microdosing at the time and spending a lot of time gardening and walking around looking at trees. I started the record in spring, and springtime in Portland is a magical time. So I think that’s where those nature-inspired song titles came from. Also, my experience of nature, especially in Oregon, is fucking dark. But it’s also calming and beautiful, and I think I was trying to create that sense in the record. Something like a canyon, for instance, is just this great abyss that is defined by having an absence. but it’s also majestic and beautiful
SG: I remember one day I spent three hours in Mount Tabor Park! It was magical. What’s the difference in mindset between Portland & New York?
JL: New York doesn’t give a fuck about you. It’s wonderful. I love feeling anonymous and like I don’t have to be accountable for my facial expressions at all times. You can just follow your weird dream side by side with a million other people and reinvent yourself endlessly and no one really cares. In Portland, I feel very cared for and observed and seen but that’s also kind of stifling. I have to get out of there a lot, but it’s a nice place to come home and hang out and sleep after a long trip or a tour. And the other active musicians there are SO wonderful and supportive.
SG: Speaking of tour. Do you develop a routine on it? I always found it was nice to pretend I had one. I was always scatter brained.
Oh yeah. I try anyway. It’s like trying to find an island of things you can control in an environment where you basically have no control over anything.
SG: What’s your craziest tour experience. The band and I were followed by a drugged out fiend in Florida once, that was creepy.
JL: Whoa! I’ve driven through 2 tornadoes. One in CO on the way to Denver and one in Georgia.
I’ve had a bandmate propose marriage to me in the middle of North Dakota
Um. lots of weirdos met as well. Had to flee someone’s house in the middle of the night once with my bandmate
SG: Did you say yes?
JL: No! Haha. That was an awkward 3 weeks following. We weren’t even dating or anything! He had a girlfriend!
SG:You know, that might top the cake of weird tour experiences.
JL: That was my first US tour. I learned a lot. And I quit that band when I got home
SG: When you’re not on tour, not running through song shifts, not diving into synthesizers, or out int he garden, what can we find you doing?
JL: I’m a lawyer! I do public interest work. and I go to the movies a lot. And the Oregon coast. I just learned how to play scrabble.
SG: Now we add “Lawyer” to the ever ending list of Jenny Logan. You’re an incredible human being.
JL: Ha, thank you 🙂